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Does she take sugar?

Does she take sugar?

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Not "special" needs - different needs?

In making arrangements for your training courses or lessons what provision do you make to ensure equality of access for everyone? Do you do what you can to narrow the achievement gap,removing obstacles? Do you ask participants about any "SPECIFIC OR DIFFERENT" needs they might have -not "SPECIAL" needs. In my experience,people don't want to be showcased,made to feel separate and special. Down this decade alone, I have witnessed the most awful elephant traps that could have been avoided had the course organiser just reflected and sought out some information from participants in a sensitive, confidential and convivial format . Elephant traps such as:-

  • Boiled ham sandwiches cascading from the tray and touching all the other food-in a multi cultural community
  • A young guy , colour blind (generally a male condition) struggling with green and red writing on the flipchart
  • An examination candidate,dyslexic, facing reams and reams of bright white paper with multiple choice questions in tightly written sequence
  • Timing a course without built in flexibility for those participants having to balance work and family responsibilities
  • Ignoring learning styles relating to age,language and culture - attention spans and use of words being only a couple of the considerations
  • Handouts and literature written in small type and sometimes with inappropriate images/words
  • Hiring only one sign language interpreter for a day's event - you try it after 15 minutes!
  • Not casting an eye over something like the SHAP calendar of religious and non religious fesitivals to determine if different arrangements could be made for timings etc
  • And greeting the Personal Assistant escorting the participant who is disabled with the question "Does she take sugar?"

Of course,sometimes(not often I suspect) it will be unreasonable, impractical and disproportionate to make changes.But it's the fact that the channel for considering different needs is not there that causes the problems. What do you do to ensure equality of access?

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By suebeatt
04th Feb 2013 15:22

We do a lot of qualification courses where there are multiple choice exams at the end. Part of our joining instructions ask if they have any specific requirements (where lunch is offered we also specifically mention dietary requirements). It covers a multitude of options and allows the delegates to tell us their requirements rather than us making any assumptions.

My experience is that people with, for example, dyslexia will ask about it before they even receive the instructions and we can then provide a reader/scribe.


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By Jo Reese
04th Feb 2013 18:17

As a professional t & d practitioner, I am dismayed every time I attend a training programme which doesn't pay attention to my stated needs. I wear hearing aids. 1 in 7 people in the country have a hearing loss, especially people above a certain age. So to get the most out of a training session I need certain basic, common sense things to happen. I developed a set of of really simple guidance notes for trainers which I tried sending out in advance. By and large they were ignored. I have experienced the most appalling treatment by people delivering training sessions, who seem to think it is fine to insult me in front of a group of people who haven't declared a hearing problem. I have completely given up trying to get any trainer to do anything positive to take my particular needs into account. 

I burst out laughing at one training session where there were trays of carefully labelled vegetarian food and one giant tray of sandwiches labelled 'meat', but it was no laughing matter for the Muslim woman who was there too. 

If you can make an effort to have vegetarian lunches available, why can't you make an effort to make your training accessible to me? Really, it isn't that hard!

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By TeenD4
05th Feb 2013 09:17

I used to be one of the founding members of the dyslexia support group for the fire service; it appears that more firefighters are dyslexic than the UK average (possibly because of the nature of the job).  In the training centre, we ensured that slides were presented on neutral background, handouts were printed on cream coloured paper and the font was more than 12pt and sans serif.  More importantly, we had started a culture of being "open" about dyslexia; so much that myself and another member the DSG ended up screening colleagues for dyslexia (after taking relevant qualifications).  If they were found to be leaning toward a specific learning difference, they were sent for a professional psychological assessment and reasonable adjustments were then made from that report.


I have taken all the good practice from this experience and build it into all my training delivery - after all, if the material is suitable for those with dyslexia, then everyone will benefit.  I feel all trainers, whether they are in-house or freelance, should be aware of dyslexia, which is called the "hidden" disability.

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By Dominic Andrew
05th Feb 2013 15:04

Some great ideas and comments here.Teen D4,I have pasted below our response to your comments you made on similar lines in HR Zone too


Brilliant -thank you. And in fact 70% of all disabilities are hidden from view.Only 5% of people with disabilities actually use a wheelchair. I have been representing recently a young guy who is colour blind(mainly a male condition according to Professor John Dalton) .The Autism Act, the only disability specific piece of legislation in the UK, takes us into other considerations. Very interesting. I have also recently been assisting two examination bodies with their arrangements in terms of equality of process,choice and access for all the Protected Characteristics in the Equality Act -and beyond. The case you make for reasonable alternatives(adjustments) in respect of dyslexic fire fighters is good. On a wider canvass and applying your points as a transferable piece of practice, t is possible with a bit of "consult and involve" for awarding bodies (and many other bodies) to create a WIN WIN with their arrangements. For example,I had been representing the interests of a dyslexic woman attending an exam and being faced with a tightly written sequence of numerous multiple choice Q and A's - on bright white paper! You will know at once the problems this created. They surmounted the paper colour problem easily by talking to her -she needed a light lemon pastel.It won't always be the same for everyone of course. AND they employed a reader to read the questions .BUT and it is a crucial BUT -they made sure the reader knew nothing at all about the subject being examined. Merabin and others point out to us that communication can consist of Body Language, Words AND PARA LINGUISTICS(tone and inference).They wanted to be quite sure there was no inference in the voice of the reader which basically was saying "It's A,it's B or C" etc.Thus they insured themselves against protests from anyone who might think "easy" arrangements were being for one person to the exclusion of the other AND secured a Win-Win for the awarding body and candidate.REASONABLE,PRACTICAL AND PROPORTIONATE!!




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